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Stadium Politics at Heart of Player Purge


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BERARDINO: Stadium politics at heart of player purge

Don't blame fans for Marlins' money woes - attendance is only part of problem.

 

Published December 15, 2005

 

 

MIAMI GARDENS -- Fifteen crisp jerseys lined the right side of the room Tuesday night for this rare glimpse of the Marlins' inner sanctum.

 

A stunned silence fell over the latest group of season ticket-holders allowed into the home clubhouse at Dolphins Stadium. Only it wasn't awe that caused this reaction. It was shock.

 

Murderer's Row this wasn't.

 

Besides hostages Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, there were names like Kensing, Moehler, Messenger, Andino, Treanor and Resop on the back of those jerseys. The other three walls were cordoned off because, well, the Marlins don't have enough big-league ballplayers left to fill those lockers.

 

Rich Volpi, his 9-year-old son Michael by his side, took a look around and feigned confusion.

 

"Wait a minute," Volpi said. "I don't see Delgado. I don't see Castillo."

 

Nor did any evidence remain that Beckett, Lowell, Lo Duca, Pierre or Mota ever played here. Someone pointed out where Carlos Delgado used to dress.

 

"That's going to be Joe Smith this year," Volpi said with a sad smile. "And over there will be Bill Jones. And that's going to be Frank James."

 

He looked down at Michael, who had once played video games with Juan Pierre at FanFest and grew to idolize the speedy center fielder. The Volpis were already on the hook for $5,000 worth of tickets, so all they could do, along with every other disgruntled fan, was to employ gallows humor.

 

"Maybe the Marlins have a chance of beating BCC this year," added Volpi, who works for the Broward County School Board. "It's such a shame."

 

That's when the enormity of this fire sale hit you like a sucker punch to the gut. And the depressing hits just kept on coming throughout this so-called "holiday party," notably during a 25-minute town hall meeting with team President David Samson.

 

Give Samson credit for putting himself in the crosshairs of an outraged fan base. Unlike club owner Jeffrey Loria, at least Samson showed up to face those most wronged by this cynical talent dispersal.

 

But most of the 650 hardcore Marlins fans who showed up saw right through the spin.

 

"This is extortion to get a stadium, pure and simple," said Chris Hatch, a financial advisor from Delray Beach.

 

Robert Rudas of Miramar stormed out of the tent after yelling at Samson and criticizing his demeanor.

 

"He is one slick dude, but it's going to take humility and respect and negotiating ability," Rudas said. "That's what I think he lacks. His snideness, his attitude and the tone of his voice to the salt-of-the-earth fans that are in that room right now is just not tolerable."

 

Added Brendan Kavanagh, a 37-year-old computer consultant originally from Wales: "This is worse than '98. In '98, it was a year of pain, but this was a week and a half of excruciating pain."

 

So this is what the abused baseball fans of South Florida have been reduced to: comparing sell-offs.

 

If Samson truly wanted to turn this mess around, he could have started by offering a refund to any season ticket-holder who wanted out. I don't care if there's no legal precedent in modern sports. It's the right thing to do.

 

Imagine buying tickets to the Rolling Stones concert next spring only to show up and learn Mick and Keith had been replaced by a couple of garage-band teens from Davie. You think the promoters might have a mini-riot on their hands?

 

David Baghdassarien, a Coral Springs attorney, drew laughter when he (correctly) suggested the team give each season ticket-holder a free yearbook "so we can tell who the players are."

 

Food vouchers, free seat upgrades and parking, additional autograph sessions.

 

All are necessary gestures from an ownership that, thanks to a $15 million payroll, $30 million in revenue sharing and another $25 million in pre-arranged debt relief from Major League Baseball, could pocket more than $30 million in profits in 2006.

 

Oh, and one more thing: Let's stop blaming the fans, OK? That especially goes for my media brethren, the same ones who show up at two or three games all year even though their seats are free.

 

"We can win a World Series every year, we can have four million people, five million people coming to see us and we still couldn't survive [without a new stadium]," Samson said. "Baseball wouldn't allow it and we can't do it."

 

In other words, the Marlins' money problems aren't about lousy attendance at all. Rather, they are almost entirely due to a substandard lease and the limited resources of the current ownership.

 

It's time to stop kicking the innocent bystanders.

 

Copyright ? 2005, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

 

 

I have a funny feeling about half are going to love this, and half are going to hate it.

 

Ignore for a second that it's Mike Berardino and you may find it more agreeable...

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Oh, and one more thing: Let's stop blaming the fans, OK? That especially goes for my media brethren, the same ones who show up at two or three games all year even though their seats are free.

 

... the Marlins' money problems aren't about lousy attendance at all. Rather, they are almost entirely due to a substandard lease and the limited resources of the current ownership.

I'm no fan of Mike as you might expect, but on this part, at least, we are in agreement.

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First article he has written since Torborg got fired that is exactly right on.

 

The key thing is MLB won't allow the Marlins to continue in the previous situation. Loria has the dilemma of trying to compete while MLB is telling him to make money and stop taking huge money from the Revenue Sharing Pot. MLB has to change, not the Marlins, and definitely not the market.

 

This will come down to who can last longer: South Florida or Selig

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Oh, and one more thing: Let's stop blaming the fans, OK? That especially goes for my media brethren, the same ones who show up at two or three games all year even though their seats are free.

 

"We can win a World Series every year, we can have four million people, five million people coming to see us and we still couldn't survive [without a new stadium]," Samson said. "Baseball wouldn't allow it and we can't do it."

 

In other words, the Marlins' money problems aren't about lousy attendance at all. Rather, they are almost entirely due to a substandard lease and the limited resources of the current ownership.

 

It's time to stop kicking the innocent bystanders.

 

Couldn't have said it any better myself. :notworthy

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Understand that no one but contemporaries of Berardino is blaming the fans. The only other people who are bringing out up fan support are those who wish to make the case there are other markets out there for the Marlins to consider, but unless those markets agree to pay for a baseball stadium, they're not going to get the Marlins.

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